The 2011 Emerson Global Users Exchange is being hosted this week in Nashville, Tenn. At Monday morning’s kickoff of the general session, Danny Streets, chairman of the Exchange, said that with more than 2,800 registered attendees from 40 countries, this marked the largest Emerson Global Users Exchange in event history.

Steve Sonnenberg, executive vice president of Emerson and president of Emerson Process Management, said the theme of this year’s Exchange, “Exchanging Ideas. Creating Solutions.” builds upon Emerson’s focus on expanding its investment in new technology and enhanced services, as well as being more proactive in listening to the wants and needs of its customers, both of which were cited as core goals at the 2010 Exchange.

According to Sonnenberg, Emerson showed doubled-digit growth in all of its global regions during the last fiscal year, as compared to the year prior. Going forward, he said he is optimistic about the industries Emerson serves, but is concerned that recent pessimism about the global economy may create a sense of uncertainty that will ultimately cause Emerson’s users to pull back from investments in the short term.

Nevertheless, he says Emerson is in the industrial process market for the long haul and is structuring its business as such, having added 4,000 employees globally over the past year. New hires included 1,000 in North America, 650 in Europe, 1,800 in Asia Pacific, 350 in Latin America, and 200 in the Middle East/Africa. In fact, Sonnenberg said Emerson would have hired more, but it was unable to fill all of its open positions due to a shortage of qualified technical professionals. “Never compromise on talent,” he told attendees gathered for Monday’s opening session.

In addition to investing in personnel, Sonnenberg says Emerson has invested heavily in bricks and mortar with the opening of new manufacturing facilities and regional service centers, as well as some key acquisitions. For example, Emerson recently opened a new 220,000 sq.ft. manufacturing facility at its Fisher Valve unit, also known as the Emerson Innovation Center, in Marshaltown, Iowa.

“We are investing like no one else in this industry,” Sonnenberg said.

Sonnenberg said while users have been generally satisfied with the Emerson product offering in recent years, there has been some sentiment among the user base that service response times could be improved. Emerson has increased its personnel and regional service center support, in part, as an answer to such customer requests.

Emerson is also touting its Human Centered Design initiative this week in Nashville. Sonnenberg said this effort is also in response to user feedback, which over the years has been showing a demand for more user-friendly products. “They’re great products, but sometimes they’re difficult to use,” said Sonnenberg, referring to some of the user feedback he has heard. The aim of the Human Centered Design initiative is to not only develop products that are themselves easier to use, but also make the job easier to accomplish.

In 2012, Sonnenberg said Emerson will continue to look for facility expansions and aim to be more responsive and be more local, the later of which he says will be accomplished by the addition of the new regional service centers.

Finally, Sonnenberg wrapped up his opening remarks by addressing some supply chain issues Emerson has been facing due to the recent flooding in Thailand. Emerson sources some components from Thailand for its products, and Sonnenberg told attendees that Emerson is facing potential delays and is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

“I can assure you we are doing everything possible to minimize the effect of this,” Sonnenberg said.

Emerson Announces Smart Energy Initiative

To demonstrate the benefits of its “Smart Energy Initiative,” Emerson showcased a case study by Tata Steel’s Port Talbot, Wales facility at this week”s Emerson Users Exchange. The facility has upgraded control of its largest steam boiler using energy management technologies and services from Emerson Process Management. The new controls enable Tata to increase energy efficiency and maximize use of waste fuels, reducing emissions as well as reliance on purchased fuels.

In other Emerson Global Users Exchange news, Emerson Process Management today announced the “Smart Energy Initiative,” a global program designed to enable customers to leverage more renewable fuels, lower energy costs, and reduce emissions.

Emerson is focused on an estimated $2 billion market that is poised for strong growth as refineries, manufacturers, and other industrial customers face increased pressure to adopt lower-cost fuels. With energy comprising 30 percent or more of a facility’s overall operating costs – combined with higher prices for fossil fuels and new global emissions mandates – industrial customers are increasingly looking to waste fuels, biomass, and other renewable sources as a solution to these challenges, Emerson said.

Emerson’s new Industrial Energy Group will specifically focus on modernizing and improving the performance of powerhouses, the onsite utilities that provide steam and electricity to power industrial operations, while also aiming to improve how the manufacturing process consumes energy. This holistic approach, Emerson says, ensures the greatest efficiency in production of energy, plus reduced waste and inefficiencies where energy is used.

“With industrial manufacturers consuming an estimated 50 percent of the world’s energy, combined with rising fossil fuel prices and global mandates for reduced emissions, our customers need more than incremental efficiencies in energy management,” said Steve Sonnenberg, president of Emerson Process Management, in a prepared statement. “With our Smart Energy Initiative, Emerson is introducing a fundamentally new platform that can change energy economics globally.”

At the heart of Emerson’s integrated technology platform is its “True BTU” technology, a patent-pending innovation for calculating the actual BTU values of fuel sources, which Emerson is touting as a way to make reliable energy production predictable and repeatable.

“Our True BTU Combustion Control platform reinvents the current model of combustion management, which has been around since the 1920s and is still in practice today,” said Chip Rennie, director of Industrial Energy for Emerson, in a prepared statement. “This brings about nothing short of a reinvention of combustion models, which will make the prevalent use of low-cost fuels like biomass achievable and sustainable.”